Streatham’s dining scene received a much-needed shot in the arm when Aya arrived on the High Road 18-months ago.
I’m sorry to say, it’s taken me that long to make my way there but I finally did so on Saturday evening and how glad I am that I did.
Lebanese food is not easy to come by in this part of South London but thankfully Aya expanded on its Wimbledon roots, to open up in our part of town. We’ve heard all sorts of tales of restaurant numbers dwindling in the last few weeks but not so here.
I instantly got the feeling that families are most welcome and while mine was the only one in during our early evening visit, every single member of staff stopped by to say chat with my little one.
This kind of treatment makes all the difference to a dining experience. My heart was singing even before a morsel of food hit the table.
Our amiable host Charles suggested we leave ordering to him, which was a lovely touch. Our culinary fate in expert hands, it was time for us to sit back and relax.
Aya’s ambiance oozes Middle Eastern charm and warmth, with an intimate atmosphere, created by traditional décor, such as imposing doors imported from the region, aimed at transporting the diners’ senses well and truly there.
Aware that in Middle Eastern culture food is everything and hospitality among the finest to be found in any corner of the globe, I asked Charles to go easy on the amount of food served.
He smiled, in a knowing sort of a way. A platter of meze duly arrived, somehow managing to tick off all of my favourites.
In no particular order – the cold selection included stuffed vine leaves, hummus, just as I like it, not completely smooth, babaganoush, roasted and pureed aubergine, and fattoush salad.
I absolutely love the latter – such clever use of Arabic bread – cooked, most probably fried, after being cut into small pieces and scattered like croutons over a tomato, onion and cucumber salad, sprinkled liberally with that wondrous seasoning, sumac.
The simplicity and freshness of the dish never ceases to amaze me but it’s a must at a feast like this.
Up next were hot meze – rakakat – cheese and spinach filled filo cigars, lamb sambusek – fried pastry parcels, stuffed with delicately spiced minced lamb, and falafel. So far so good and probably enough of a meal for the three of us but the main course was already on its way.
Aya’s menu boasts 40+ starters or meze – all around the £5 mark – that make it a perfect for groups to share.
The main event here is meat so I’m not entirely sure what vegetarians would do here, other than load up on the meze.
The Mixed Grill includes chicken shish, lean lamb shish, lamb kafta, chicken shawarma and lamb shawarma. It would easily feed four and at £17.95, represents staggering value for money – a real family feast.
Paloma was a guest of AYA – 78 Streatham High Road, Streatham High Road, Streatham SW16 1BS
Mother’s Day lunch she well remember
She’s the person who puts everybody first all year round but Sunday, March 22 is all hers. Here’s how to treat your mum to Mother’s Day lunch she’ll remember.
With beautiful and enviable views over Brockwell Park, Park’s Edge Bar & Kitchen’s three-course set lunch is the ultimate way to say thanks for all Mum does.
Showcasing a modern British menu, with Caribbean influence, starters to look out for include peppered garlic and lemongrass tiger prawns and duck and waffle, truffle cream, maple and confit yolk.
For the main course, why not try three-way chicken: stuffed ballotine, jerk chicken breast with mango spiced chicken leg, served with all the traditional Sunday roast trimmings.
Who doesn’t love a G&T and combined with a crumble?
Rhubarb, gin and apple crumble, crème Anglaise is a dessert that no mum can turned down.
Park’s Edge Bar & Kitchen, 49-51 Norwood Rd, Dulwich, SE24 9AA.
Call 020 8671 0306 or go to www.parksedgebarandkitchen.com